In my little town, a local grocery store--which many people assumed would quietly fold when its owners retired--is now under new ownership. The proprietors are serious about keeping it alive and helping it thrive. They believe in our little mountain village.
I am rooting for them., As I look around I'm noticing other local businesses are taking hold. Today in my town of less than 2,000 people, you can get a haircut, brow wax and manicure, fuel up, pick up groceries, fix your car, open a bank account, have your wedding catered, get your tractor repaired, engage a custom welder, buy premium steak, see a movie, hire a public relations consultant and have your latest hunting trophy stuffed and mounted, all without leaving the city limits. Some of those businesses have been around for decades, but others are relatively new--and a lot of them are employing people.
It makes me wonder: After decades of businesses migrating to population centers, could small-town business really be a thing again?
I read this book, and I'm a believer.
Main Street Entrepreneur: Build Your Dream Company Doing What You Love Where You Live details the bicycle journey of author, professor, entrepreneur and business consultant Michael Glauser as he pedaled across the nation. He made the trip with team members who supported the journey, shot videos, rode alongside him and drove the motor home where they all slept at night. They interviewed successful entrepreneurs who started their companies in small towns, most of which had populations of fewer than 30,000 people.
I was not surprised that these business owners started with a compelling idea. I was surprised that for so many of them, that idea was: "I really like living here. How can I settle down and support my family?" They found answers that often provided jobs to other people in their communities.
Why is Main Street enjoying a resurgence now? Glauser puts it this way:
"Ironically, we can use the same technology that is destroying corporate jobs to live where we want, reach markets beyond our geographical location, and take advantage of the growing preference for smaller businesses over large corporations,"
He interviewed people who sell products and services over the internet, but he also features plenty of bricks-and-mortar business owners who had a knack for supplying what their customers were looking for. (Many of the businesses featured have some connection to health and fitness. When you consider that the bicycle trek from Pacific to Atlantic encompassed 4000 miles via bicycle, it makes sense.)
So much of what I read backs up the country way of life I already know. Small-town neighbors help each other out. While they understand their businesses needs to sustain themselves, small-town entrepreneurs aren't necessarily in it for the money. They know how to access resources without it. That said, some of the businesses featured were remarkably successful.
I enjoyed a theme that ran through so many of the profiles: these people absolutely love where they live. They contribute to their communities, and their little towns love them back.
The book is also something of a how-to manual. Glauser identified common threads in the entrepreneurs' stories to clarify what made them successful. The book includes questions at the end of each chapter to help a would-be entrepreneur walk herself through the process of starting a successful business.
It;'s good advice, and the stories were delightful. So that's my recommended summer reading for the small-town business.
To find out more about the author, his book and his bike trek, you can watch this keynote address.
PS: This review was unsolicited--I just really liked the book!